Pasi Petanen opens Cafe Paci in Newtown

Chef Pasi Petanan at his East Sydney venue in 2013.
Chef Pasi Petanan at his East Sydney venue in 2013. Photo: Nic Walker

All eyes are on Newtown this week where a former winner of Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Chef of the Year award has handed in his fine-dining licence to open an affordable neighbourhood eatery.

It might be casual, but former Marque head chef Pasi Petanen doesn't do boring. When Good Food checked in with the chef before Friday's launch of Cafe Paci, Petanen was in the middle of fine-tuning a smoked trout version of XO sauce.

The bricks and mortar reboot of Petanen's Cafe Paci pop-up sees the Finnish chef more invested in the interior than he was in his former temporary homes.

Grilled sardines with dehydrated strawberries and licorice from the East Sydney pop-up.
Grilled sardines with dehydrated strawberries and licorice from the East Sydney pop-up. Photo: Jennifer Soo

"The design theme is like a wedding. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. The bar is blue, the banquette is new and the equipment is old," he explains.

Yet Petanen remains cheekily tight-lipped on exactly what he's borrowed.

The Finnish chef has been on the hunt for a permanent home for Cafe Paci since closing his award-winning East Sydney pop-up in 2015.

He finally settled on a shopfront next to Bella Brutta at the Marlborough Hotel end of the Newtown strip.

The opening menu will team his XO trout with potato dumplings. He's also tweaking a sweet and sour squash dish and there's a sourdough pasta with pecorino and pear.

"I want it to be the sort of place people might just pop in for a hanger steak. Something for Newtown," he says.

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It's also one of the most heavily toqued casual neighbourhood restaurants Sydney has seen, with Karl Firla from the recently closed two-hat Oscillate Wildly jumping in the kitchen at Cafe Paci.

Which might make Firla the something borrowed?

Sat lunch; Mon-Sat dinner from 5.30pm.

131 King Street, Newtown, cafepaci.com.au